Like many Americans, Corporal Jake DeShazer wanted revenge. It was World War II and the Japanese had bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, decimating the U.S. Fleet and killing more than 2,400 Americans. A bombardier in the Army Air Corps, DeShazer volunteered for a top-secret mission, agreeing to fly with the legendary Doolittle Raiders in a surprise bombing attack over Japan. After successfully completing their mission, DeShazer and seven other airmen were forced to parachute over occupied China. They were captured by the Japanese.
Mitsuo Fuchido and DeShazer became lifelong friends.
During 40 months of imprisonment, DeShazer endured brutal treatment at the hands of his captors. At first he was hardened and embittered by the experience, but as his captivity wore on, he pondered what made people hate one another. Incredibly, a Japanese guard supplied him with a copy of the Bible in English, and Jake devoured its message of forgiveness and redemption. The emaciated airman asked God to take control of his life. In the process, he forgave his enemies and decided that he would return to Japan one day to share the message of God’s love.
Only half of DeShazer’s eight-man crew survived (three were executed, and one died of starvation). Rescued by American paratroopers at the end of the war, Jake enrolled at Seattle Pacific College and was in a classroom just two months after leaving his prison cell. He met Florence Matheny on the Seattle Pacific campus and fell in love. The two completed their studies, graduated, and six months later boarded a ship for Japan as Free Methodist missionaries. A million copies of his printed testimony, I Was a Prisoner of Japan, were distributed ahead of Jake’s arrival.
For the next 30 years, DeShazer preached God's grace in Japan, and thousands of Japanese became Christians as a result of his ministry. Among them were two of his former prison guards and Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the Japanese squadron that bombed Pearl Harbor. In 1950, after reading I Was a Prisoner of Japan, Fuchida began reading the Bible and became a Christian. He then spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia and the United States.
When asked to think back on his time in a tiny cell, what affected DeShazer most was the inspiration he received from reading that Bible. “My heart was filled with joy,” he told listeners everywhere. “I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone.”
Read the cover story from Response Magazine.
Read another story of hope, Jessica Pixler.